With Vito Mannone in goal for only his eleventh start, Arsenal faced Stoke at the Britannia on Sunday and kept their second clean sheet of the season. At the same time Arsene Wenger’s new look strike force also failed to grab their first goal of the campaign.
Technically it was a poor game. Of Arsenal’s 17 attempts on goal only two managed to test the opposition goalkeeper. That just about summed the Gunners up.
Great defensive work from the backline (including Arteta) allowed clever and patient midfield play(mostly through the feet of Cazorla), only for things to break down time and time again once the final pass was required or the misfiring attackers skewed, shanked or Diabyed the ball wide of the goal.
Podolski should have been the first of Arsenal’s new boys to score. The German found himself free in the box from a Giroud pass only for his rifled volley to be blocked by the outstretched arm of the falling Stoke defender.
The most exciting efforts came from Olivier Giroud. The first, an athletic scissor kick that he didn’t connect with properly after some smart movement from a corner; the second, an audacious lob after picking up a through ball from Oxlade-Chamberlain near the flank. Spotting the Stoke ‘keeper marginally off of his line, the Frenchman went for a driven chip that hit the roof of the net with only minutes left in the game.
It was a surprising decision considering Ramsey was racing through unmarked from the midfield and one that seemed to anger Wenger on the sideline, but Giroud admitted after the game he didn’t see or hear his teammate.
Giroud was mooted as the key man today and although he didn’t break his duck his performance was encouraging. After some more training his disrupted pre-season will be far behind him.
Strong, determined and industrious, he fought for the entire game and held his own against one of the most physical teams in one of Europe’s most physical leagues.
The chances mostly fell Arsenal’s way but the drastic lack of accuracy in the shooting proved costly in the end. The most pleasing thing is that as the new attackers begin to gel these creases should iron themselves out for the frontline in time.
Even more pleasing was the defensive work. The boys at the back looked really strong against a team who usually bully and wind Arsenal up into losing their shape and game plan. On Sunday Arsenal gave them nothing but a weak penalty shout and didn’t bow to any of their roughhousing even after Vermaelen was almost broken in half from a late tackle.
All in all, not exactly breathtaking stuff but coming after a season where the squad shipped 50 goals and fans filled their trousers every time the opposition entered Arsenal’s half, I’ll take this new look resilience (as long as the frontline put in some overtime on the shooting range).
Expect new things from this team; when was the last time an Arsenal player even attempted a scissor kick or a chip from near the half way line?